Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Terra Preta and the new "Eco-Logical" reinterpritation.

Terra Preta and the new "Eco-Logical" reinterpritation.
-Alan Reed Bishop/Hip-Gnosis Seed Development/Homegrown Goodness

Amongst the most important historical, anthropological, archiological, and agriculture discoveries of recent times is the study of Terra Preta (or Dark Soil), a type of soil discovered in the Amazonian River Delta area.

This soil has been an enigma in and off itself for centuries and is only now becoming well known and understood (to an extent). The soil seems to be man made with agricultural purposes in mind making us rethink just exactly what natural and pristine conditions are (man made evolutionary ideas, agricultural alchemy) in a place as isolated and as previously thought (due to poor and thin soils) uninhabitable as the Amazoinian basin. There is no doubt that there were large and herto undiscovered, agriculturally advanced, civilizations just as described by Francisco de Orellana (could the golden city of El Dorado actually exist? After all if you don't have to worry about feeding yourself you do have time to work on other projects! Could these high population levels and advanced agriculture have led to advanced civilization altogether? Atlantis?).

Apparently no one has yet to exactly discover, unravel, or truly understand how Terra Preta was made. We do know that it is a stable soil, more stable than any soil on earth, and that it does self replicate (living inert material? Indeed!). 1,000 years after it was deposited it is still just as fertile and active as ever, only needing to lie fallow for six months at a time (if at all, one farmer described farming the same plot for 40 years without break!).

Anyhow, there seem to be modern organic growers that are experimenting with bio-char (a fancy term for charcoal) and I have spent a good deal of my day researching all of this and providing links, currently my brain is formulating ideas about how this could work on a small farm like Bishop's Homegrown, I already have a good idea on how to create the active carbon charcoal I would need to start the process. 2009 will see trials with these methods on the small scale, I presume success, in which case the trials will grow into the large scale and eventually a soil amending traditional practice.

P.S. I have done some thinking upon this method today and I think I have a decent grasp on just exactly what is going on in the Terra Preta soil, I will be updating shortly with more information. I also did some rough calculations on the amount of land in the Amazoinia Basin that was converted to Terra Preta, it is mind blowing to say the least, roughly 63,031.5 square miles at a six foot depth of land was developed in this way, with bio-intensive type methods the poupulation support could have been stagering to say the least!

What follows are some of what I found on the net, the first is from NatGeo and I highly reccomend watching the replay of the program for more info:


Erich J. Knight said...

You Have covered the basic links,here's a few more with some duplication;

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!

Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Charles Mann ("1491") in the Sept. National Geographic has a wonderful soils article which places Terra Preta / Biochar soils center stage.
I think Biochar has climbed the pinnacle, the Combined English and other language circulation of NGM is nearly nine million monthly with more than fifty million readers monthly!
We need to encourage more coverage now, to ride Mann's coattails to public critical mass.

Please put this (soil) bug in your colleague's ears. These issues need to gain traction among all the various disciplines who have an iron in this fire.

I love the "MEGO" factor theme Mann built the story around. Lord... how I KNOW that reaction.

I like his characterization concerning the pot shards found in Terra Preta soils;

so filled with pottery - "It was as if the river's first inhabitants had
thrown a huge, rowdy frat party, smashing every plate in sight, then
buried the evidence."

Biochar data base;

I also have been trying to convince Michael Pollan ( NYT Food Columnist, Author ) to do a follow up story, with pleading emails to him

Since the NGM cover reads "WHERE FOOD BEGINS" , I thought this would be right down his alley and focus more attention on Mann's work.

I've admiried his ability since "Botany of Desire" to over come the "MEGO" factor (My Eyes Glaze Over) and make food & agriculture into page turners.

It's what Mann hasn't covered that I thought should interest any writer as a follow up article and your transition team

The Biochar provisions by Sen.Ken Salazar in the 07 & 08 farm bill,

NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.

The many new university programs & field studies, in temperate soils; Cornell, ISU, U of H, U of GA, Virginia Tech, New Zealand and Australia.

Glomalin's role in soil tilth, fertility & basis for the soil food web in Terra Preta soils.

The International Biochar Initiative Conference Sept 8 in New Castle;

Given the current "Crisis" atmosphere concerning energy, soil sustainability, food vs. Biofuels, and Climate Change what other subject addresses them all?

This is a Nano technology for the soil that represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.

Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.

Michael Pollan is well briefed about Biochar technology, but did not include it in his "Farmer & Chief" article to the candidates, but Pollan was approached by Obama's people and asked for a condensed version. He replied that if he could solve the problems of US agriculture in less than 8000 word he would have. but I'm sure Biochar will be his 8001th word.

540 289 9750

PS, Other concerns & Questions & Biochar studies at ACS Huston meeting & Grants;

Total CO2 Equivalence:
Even before the total CO2 equivalent credits are validated they should be on the product label. Once a commercial bagged soil amendment product, every suburban household can do it,
The label can tell them of their contribution, a 40# bag = 150# CO2 = 160 bags / year to cover my personal CO2 emissions.( 20,000 #/yr , 1/2 average)

Full carbon credit validation should easily follow the path that has garnered carbon credits for no-till practices.

But that is just the Carbon!
I have yet to find a total CO2 equivalent number taking consideration against some average field N2O & CH4 emissions. The New Zealand work shows 10X reductions.
If biochar also proves to be effective at reducing nutrient run-off from agricultural soils, then there will also be a reduction in downstream N2O emissions .

This ACS study implicates soil structure / N2O connection;

Biochar at ACS;
There were no Biochar studies last year , this year dozens;
Most all this work corroborates char dynamics we have seen so far . The soil GHG emissions work showing increased CO2 , also speculates that this CO2 has to get through the hungry plants above before becoming a GHG.
The SOM, MYC& Microbes, N2O (soil structure), CH4 , nutrient holding , Nitrogen shock, humic compound conditioning, absorbing of herbicides all pretty much what we expected to hear.

Biochar Studies at ACS Huston meeting;



665 - III.


Biochar Grants:

IBI Site;

CSREES Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)

Sustainable Agriculture;

The goals of sustainable agriculture are to provide a more profitable farm income, to promote environmental stewardship, and to enhance the quality of life for farm families and their communities. CSREES promotes sustainable agriculture through national program leadership and funding for research and extension. It offers competitive grants programs and a professional development program, and it collaborates with other federal agencies through the USDA Sustainable Development Council.

Natural Resources & Environment (NRE), ( this seems the best fit for Biochar)
NRE programs strengthen the nation's capacity to address critical environmental priorities and contribute to improved air, soil, and water quality; fish and wildlife management; enhanced aquatic and other ecosystems; the sustainable use and management of forests, rangelands, watersheds, and other renewable natural resources; and a better understanding of global climate change, including its impact on the diversity of plant and animal life. NRE programs also demonstrate the benefits and opportunities of sustainable development, and contribute to the economic viability of agriculture and rural communities realizing the impact of environmental policies and regulations.

Anastasia said...

There is some research on biochar happening at Iowa State. I've been to a few talks about it, and am intrigued. It seems that biochar might be best paired with production of biofuels. Very interesting stuff!
I wrote about Archer Daniels Midland's vision for biofuels/biochar in a blog post, if you are interested.

Bishops Homegrown said...

Thanks for the new information guys, will check it out as soon as time allows.

new_biochar_land said...

You must read this
“The Biochar Revolution” with “The Biochar Solution”
The Biochar Revolution collects the results and best practical advice that these entrepreneurs have to offer to the biochar community. When practice and theory advance to the point where they meet in the middle, then we will truly see a biochar revolution.

new_biochar_land said...

Don't believe in what biochar can do?
Learn more about the future of agriculture with biochar, from the most complete book about biochar “The Biochar Revolution”
Learn how to get terra preta!